Punishing False Promises

EFF supporters rally to hear Malema, a typical populist providing false promises to a hopeful public.

When a business or individual fails to uphold their end of a bargain, they are punished. When politicians fail to uphold their obligation, their election promises, there is either (depending on the skill of their propaganda team) minor grumbling from the public, or thunderous applause. Politicians are not held accountable, and the problem is that we have come to expect this to be the norm.

In an earlier article, I argued that a state which does not deliver does not have the right to extort tax from its citizens, and that said citizens have all the moral right in the world to withhold their tax. In this article, I would like to extend this assertion. Politicians need to be held accountable for their promises, in order to keep promises realistic and in order to force politicians to actually become productive members of society.

This hypothetical policy would manifest in politicians entering into a binding legal contract listing all their concrete promises. Once the politician is elected, they will need to act out the obligation of the contract like any decent worker. If they fail to achieve any of said promises, they have breached their contract and then we can instate one or both of the following options: the politician immediately steps down (automatic resignation) and/or, members of the public can legally sue for breach of contract.

Other individuals around the world have had the same idea. The legal precedent in many countries doesn’t allow for such actions, however. Typically, the only factor holding a politician accountable is an active voting public that threatens them with the possibility of not re-electing them or their party. An active and educated voting public is necessary for accountable government, but not always available. That is why a legal precedent has to be established.

Populists win-over an ignorant voting public with obviously false promises. In a country with an uneducated voting populace, we cannot rely on threats of withholding re-election. A policy which allows the suing of politicians for breach of contract will force politicians to temper their promises.

This will create a case of realistic promises and policy goals. No longer will populists like Trump be able to whimsically flip-flop between contradictory views. They will need to have a concrete policy sheet, perhaps included on the ballot, and if they fail to fulfil those goals, they are punished. This is even more relevant in South Africa, where nebulous ideas such as “Transformation” are not examined, and are used to gain support without any inkling of practical policy. With this proposed policy, politicians would have to contractually formulate concrete goals which could stand up in a business or legal format. No more rhetoric.

This will give power to individuals and hold governments more accountable. Politics will become like real businesses – dependent on satisfying consumers. Democracy will be tempered, so that the whims of an ignorant majority do not get in the way of the rights of the individual to seek justice.

Democracy is an immature system. It promises magic by majority vote, and seldom delivers a thing. With this policy, politicians will be grounded and voters forced to vote with rational analysis, and not what words sound the best.